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What is Partial Pancreatectomy?

The pancreas is a long, flat organ that is found in the abdomen. It is located near the stomach, liver, gallbladder, and duodenum and is a major part of the digestive process. The pancreas also controls the level of sugar in the bloodstream. When disease or trauma have damaged the pancreas, all attempts should be made to save the gland, as it can regenerate. If part of the pancreas needs to be surgically removed, the remaining portion can function properly after healing. This procedure is called a partial pancreatectomy, and should only be completed by a board-certified veterinary surgeon. The operation is performed in emergency situations involving trauma to the abdomen, or after multiple tests and diagnostic imaging sessions in the event of cancer.

Partial Pancreatectomy Procedure in Cats

Full blood work will need to be run on the cat to determine if general anesthesia is appropriate to use. If cancer is suspected, further ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs may be needed to locate all masses on the pancreas. A fine-needle aspiration biopsy may be recommended to collect tumor tissue for diagnosis. The cat may need to be tube fed for a period of time to ensure it has enough nutrients to survive the surgery. If the veterinarian still recommends surgery after all of these tests have been run, a date will be set. 

The cat will have fluids and anesthesia administered intravenously prior to the operation. If possible, the surgery will be performed laparoscopically, as it then can be performed with several small incisions instead of one large one. A camera is inserted into one of the openings and surgical tools are put into the others. The area to be removed will be clamped shut to cut any blood vessels in the gland. The pancreas is then stapled and separated into two parts. At this point, if there are any arteries or veins involved, the spleen will also be removed. A bipolar vessel sealing device offers more success at sealing blood vessels than other surgical tools. A portion of the surrounding lymph nodes may be taken to be sent to a lab for further evaluation. The abdominal openings are then sutured or stapled back together.

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Efficacy of Partial Pancreatectomy in Cats

The procedure itself carries a high survival rate. In instances that do not involve cancer, permanent results are to be expected because of the pancreas’ regenerative properties. Up to 80% of the gland can be removed and within weeks will return to its full function and produce hormones without deficiency. If the cat has cancer of the pancreas, the prognosis will depend on how early the cancer was found and if and where it has spread. Chemotherapy may also be used but it is not associated with high survival rates. In any circumstance that it can be performed, a partial pancreatectomy is much more favorable than a full pancreatectomy as the gland can be saved and the cat will experience fewer long-term complications.

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Partial Pancreatectomy Recovery in Cats

A partial pancreatectomy is not associated with a high rate of complications. The cat should be monitored throughout the general recovery period. The serum glucose levels should be closely watched and dextrose may need to be administered. Signs of sepsis should also be watched for. The greatest risks are associated with the cat coming off of the anesthetic. Normal body functions should begin to resume within the first week after the operation. In the first two days of recovery, antibiotics and fluids will be administered intravenously. The cat will likely be sent home with oral antibiotics to last for approximately 10 days. A follow-up appointment will be needed between one and two weeks post-surgery. If cancer has been found in the cat, ongoing treatments may be needed.

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Cost of Partial Pancreatectomy in Cats

Partial pancreatectomies range in cost depending on if further biopsies or testing are needed to confirm the presence of cancer. In cats who need this procedure due to trauma, the surgery itself may cost around $3,000. In cats who require an extensive diagnostic period, costs can jump up to as high as $8,000. There are no alternatives to treat cancer of the pancreas that carry high success rates. Some may choose to administer chemotherapy on its own, but this method is low in success and still fairly high in price.

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Cat Partial Pancreatectomy Considerations

If the cat is deemed healthy enough to have the surgery, the procedure poses less risk than leaving the tumor or other gland damage unattended. The cat may experience a period of diabetes due to limited hormone production, but regular insulin levels should return to normal in a few weeks’ time. Pancreatic enzyme supplements may be given to the cat throughout recovery. There is a small chance that the cat may develop hepatic lipidosis, sepsis, pneumonia, or thoracic effusion, all which create a much more guarded prognosis.

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Partial Pancreatectomy Prevention in Cats

Pancreatic cancer is hard to prevent, as it has often spread from other parts of the body. Cats who are older than ten years of age have a higher chance of developing cancer of the pancreas. While avoiding known toxins and carcinogens may help prevent this cancer from forming, very early detection is the only chance the cat has of surviving it. It may be prudent to have senior cats examined for these types of cancers during their semi-annual check ups. 

To prevent your cat from experience damage to the pancreas from severe trauma, keep it indoors where it can be monitored. There are fewer instances of serious injury in indoor cats than there are in outdoor cats. Promote exercise in your indoor cat by providing it with stimulating toys and towers. Playing with your cat can also increase the bond that you share with your pet. 

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